Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
A couple of seasons back, we gave you our thoughts on thrifting the Rock. Since then, those of us who love nothing better than whiling away a Saturday elbow-deep in musty record bins next to a cart of someone's grandma's dresses, have gained a few and lost a few. Angles in the Attic is gone, and one of our favorites, the Salvation Army warehouse store, fell victim to mold and roof travails. But Little Rock is still full of deals for the savvy and the persistent.
Compassion Center doesn't seem to get much hipster play. In fact, we've never encountered anyone holding up anything for a shopping partner to snicker at ironically — which probably explains why that rainbow-plastered Girl Scout poncho has hung around for at least three months now. Mostly the shop seems to serve seniors and families from the neighborhood. It's huge, with racks of jeans, some vintage dresses and a full section dedicated to capris. We always find at least one pair of must-have vintage shoes, and there's a fairly beefy furniture selection. (We once found a '50's modular sofa there for $75, in only slightly shabby-chic condition). Prices are comparable to Goodwill's — $5 a dress, $8 a suit, $2 for shoes — and you can have anything delivered for $20. There's also a fabulous formals' section, which nearly compensates for the one we lost when Salvation Army closed. Go for costumes, clothes, shoes and furniture; avoid if you're after books, accessories, records and housewares. Cash, check or credit. 3618 W. Roosevelt, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon-Sat.
Era's Vintage might be interesting. We wish we could say for sure. Twice now, we've gone by when Facebook says this place it open. Twice now, it's been locked tight. What we can tell from the window — there are a handful of reasonably priced items and a lot of stuff that you'd find for half the price at Goodwill. Call first, though. Cash, check, credit. 1007 Seventh St., 396-9701. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon., noon-8 p.m. Wed.-Sat.
Argenta's Galaxy Furniture isn't cheap enough to call thrift, but it's by far the most eclectic selection of mid-century furniture in the area (think Mad Men). You'll find small-ticket items (fabric suitcases, kitschy wastebaskets, cocktail servers) juxtaposed among couches, cabinet record players and marvelous lamps. Bartering often works here, and check upstairs for better deals. There's also a surprisingly well-cultivated rack of vintage clothes. Cash, check, credit. 304 Main St., NLR, 375-3375, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
As we're sure you've noticed, in recent years Goodwill has received a snazzy makeover. Gone are the days of tangled hangers and quarter T-shirts. Welcome to the Goodwill of wide aisles, blinding lights and color-coded racks. The nonprofit has half a dozen stores in the area, and they're not all created equal. First off, the Bryant Goodwill and the University Goodwill should be skipped altogether. At University, it always seems that the college kids got there first. And unless you want second-hand ice-cream and bread machines, Bryant offers nothing but department store duds a good decade away from vintage-status. The most promising options are at Markham Park Drive and North Rodney Parham. The Markham store can be overwhelming, but it offers a great selection of nearly everything. If you want a cheap TV, cheesy '70s yarn art, baskets for planting and storage, near sets of vintage dishware, books, DVDs and even 8-tracks, you've found your shop. Ladies, this is where you'll satiate that odd new craving you've developed for '80's swimwear. There's also a selection of vintage slips hidden among the frumpy PJ's and robes. Skirts and men's shirts are hit and miss, but there's a huge stock of jeans, and both the shoe and dress sections offer plenty of vintage specimens. North Rodney Parham is a more manageable version of the same. Standouts include retro coffee mugs, an incredible selection of clip-on ties and fab '80's sweaters. Bonus points for the cowboy-boot beer steins that may still be there, if you hurry. North Little Rock has both a shop and a clearance center on JFK Boulevard. The occasional novelty deal comes through the thrift shop — we saw a $50 dollar Suzuki violin once — and there's usually vintage dresses and sweaters among the regular stock, but this store doesn't quite rival Markham and Parham. The Clearance Center has a separate entrance at the side of the building. It's a bonafide digfest through unorganized bins, but $1.39 will get you a full pound of clothing. There's also an occasional worthwhile record. If you're in the area, the Hot Springs Goodwill is mandatory, especially if you're seeking men's button-downs, any kind of sweater and boldly printed silk dresses. Cash, local check, credit. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun. Bryant: Highway 5N, 653-2209. Little Rock: 9700 N. Rodney Parham, 224-6221; 109 Markham Park Drive, 221-1018; 2904 S. University Ave., 568-5313; North Little Rock: 6929 John F Kennedy Blvd., 835-5286. (Clearance Center closes at 6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.) Hot Springs: 631 E. Grand Ave. 321-0275.
There are Habitat for Humanity Restores in Little Rock and North Little Rock. If it's frumpy 50-year-old velour armchairs you're after, they can be yours for $15-$30. This place will also meet your house paint, door-hinges and bathroom fixture needs. The furniture is largely boring, but occasionally we luck out. In the South University Restore, we saw a Danish modern desk for $30. Both stores also sell books, frames and dishes, but the selection's spotty. The Pike Avenue Restore is bigger and has miles of fabric couches in hideous prints, if extreme irony is your motif. But we prefer the S. University store. It yields more surprises. On our last visit there was a chunky wooden clock in the shape of Arkansas, a pair of vintage boxing gloves and a whole room of records, including the techno collection of some bygone DJ. Cash, credit. Little Rock: 6700 S. University Ave., 376-4434, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; North Little Rock, 2657 Pike Ave., 771-9497, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
We can take or leave Hillcrest Junk. It's worth a look, but we rarely actually purchase. Ten bucks will get you a flamingo-themed souvenir teacup made in "occupied Japan." Fifty bucks will get you a woman's vintage fur in excellent condition. You might also find wigs, costume jewelry and pet carriers here. Plus, it carries an impressive collection of campy salt-and-pepper shakers. Cash, check. 623A Beechwood St., 681-7999, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun., noon-5 p.m. Mon.-Tue.
We seem to do better at MidTowne Antiques Mall — a 20,000-square-foot, multi-vendor hodge-podge of reclaimed furniture, dishes, candelabra, ashtrays and the like. On our last visit, we were particularly pleased with the luggage selection (suitcases from the '40s and '50s, priced from $15-$30). If it's clothes you're after, pickings are sparse. There are about three booths of interesting vintage-wear, mostly catered to women. Coincidentally, a dress will run you about the same as those suitcases. Cash, check, credit. 223-3600, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun.
There are two My Favorite Thrift shops, both of which benefit Our House shelter. The North Little Rock store is the better of the two, but the Hillcrest store has some unique offerings. First off, you should know that the clothes and shoes are dull and overpriced, with the exception of about a dozen (naughty?) schoolgirl uniforms. On last check, there was a shelf full of antique books, including an 1868 seventh edition of "Swiss Family Robinson." There's also some library's forsaken collection of about 30 reel-to-reel, 16 mm educational films from the '70s. If you have a projector, these things can be a real gas (e.g. "The Fur Coat Club," about two little girls who tail strangers around Manhattan to surreptitiously "pet" their coats.) The JFK store has better clothes, but go there for accessories. They keep the costume jewelry and the elbow-length evening gloves (about three bucks a pair) behind the counter, so ask for them. There are also grand anomalies, like hand-painted TV trays from the '60's, Samsonite weekenders from the '70's and the occasional mid-century lamp. Cash, check, debit (no credit cards). 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Mon.-Sat. Little Rock: 109 N. Van Buren St., 353-0642. North Little Rock: 4606 John F. Kennedy Blvd., 246-5741.
There are also two Savers, which benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Arc. Once upon a time, we loved Savers. But since Goodwill has become so cheerful and clean, Savers has begun to feel uninteresting and overpriced. Sometimes a sweater will run you $10, and slacks and dresses never seem to go for under $8. Double ditto for shoes. We don't even bother going to the Bowman Road store. We only go to the JFK store for their killer collection of jukebox 45s. Cash, check, credit (Visa and MC only). 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Little Rock: 801 S. Bowman Road, 217-9417; North Little Rock: 4135 John F. Kennedy Blvd., 603-9831.
Wolfe Street Thrift is musty, jumbled and underappreciated — in other words, the dream of all thrift devotees. The back room has a huge record selection, including some 78s that pre-date World War II. We leave this place with entirely random goodies, but we never leave empty-handed. Once we made away with a couple of stylish metal toolboxes; once, a distressed-wood bookshelf; another time we chanced upon a Fluff (you know, that space-age marshmallow spread) sleeping bag, which is most likely still there. Prices are good, and they're usually willing to make them better. The clothes are nearly always vintage, only sometimes wearable, and you can find incredible deals on lamps, chunky wooden picture frames and the occasional piece of milk glass or carved box purse, among other wonders. Happy perusing. Cash or local check only. 1813 Wright Ave., 375-5747, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.